************ Sermon on James 5:16b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 13, 2000
"Pray for One Another"
What two phrases better express Christian fellowship than any other? What two phrases show the bonds of Christian love that exist between Christian brothers and sisters? Let me tell you. The first phrase: "Please pray for me." The second phrase: "I am praying for you."
We continue our study this evening of the "one another" passages found in the New Testament. As you all should know by now, the one another passages are those that tell us what we are called to do for "one another" within the fellowship of believers. The one another passages are those that describe the many forms that Christian fellowship can and should take. There are over fifty "one another" passages in the New Testament. Let me highlight just some of them:
Love one another Jn 13:34-35, Gal 5:14
Encourage one another Heb 3:13; 10:24-25
Be devoted to one another Rom 12:10
Build up one another Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:11
Be kind to one another 1 Thess 5:15
Accept one another Rom 15:7
Serve one another Gal 5:13
Have concern for one another 1 Cor 12:25
Confess your sins to one another Jm 5:16
Forgive one another Eph 4:32
Submit to one another Eph 5:21
Don't judge one another Rom 14:13
Don't slander one another Jm 4:11
This evening James says, "Pray for each other" or as another translation puts it, "Pray for one another." All of this is part of our fellowship with one another within the body of Christ.
The fellowship of prayer that we are talking about this evening is more commonly known as intercessory prayer. It is the prayer you offer for another.
There are three kinds of prayers: upward, inward, and outward. Upward prayers focus on God. They are prayers of adoration and praise to God for Who He is; they are prayers of thanksgiving to God for what He has done and has given to us. Inward prayers focus on self. They are prayers of confession and humility in which we confess our sins and failures; they are prayers of supplication in which we present our needs and our concerns to God. Outward prayers focus on others. They are prayers of intercession in which we bring the needs and concerns of others before the mercy seat of God.
When James says, "Pray for each other," he is thinking of outward prayer. James wants to see outward prayer within the fellowship of those who have died with Christ and have been raised with Christ. Those who are brothers and sisters in Christ "pray for one another."
I A Delightful Duty
A "Pray for one another." According to our text outward prayer is a duty. James doesn't say, "I want you to pray for each other." He doesn't say, "I wish you would pray for each other." He says, "Pray for one another." It is a command. Outward or intercessory prayer is our duty as Christians. It is one of our responsibilities towards one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the Old Testament, God's servant Samuel struggled more than once with the wayward Israelites. At the time of his farewell speech Samuel said,
(1 Sam 12:23) "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you."Notice how Samuel put it: that it is a sin against God not to pray for Israel.
Outward or intercessory prayer is a daily service we owe both to God and our Christian brothers and sisters. The Christian who doesn't pray for his or her neighbor is denying that neighbor the most basic of services that we owe one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
B "Pray for one another." We would be doing prayer a disservice by thinking of it only as a duty. For it is also a gift of God's grace. Outward or intercessory prayer is a gift of God's grace that gives us both the ability and the desire to pray faithfully for others. "Please pray for me," is a common cry heard in the church of Jesus Christ. Because of God's grace, God's people hear that cry, they remember that cry, and they faithfully and persistently bring that cry to God's throne of grace.
Outward or intercessory prayer is a gift of God's grace for every Christian community and for every Christian. Seen in this light, outward or intercessory prayer is a privilege. It is a privilege that God grants only to believers. It is a privilege to give expression to the communion of saints, to the fellowship of believers, by bringing each other to the Lord in prayer.
II Prayer Warriors
A "Pray for one another." When it comes to outward or intercessory prayer God wants each of us to be "prayer warriors." What is a prayer warrior? A prayer warrior is someone who knows we are all involved in a battle against sin and evil and Satan. A prayer warrior is alert, like a soldier, for the attacks of the enemy. Whenever a prayer warrior senses an attack he or she begins to pray. A prayer warrior realizes that a spiritual battle must be fought with spiritual weapons. A prayer warrior realizes that it is with prayer, not with arms, that Satan is defeated. A prayer warrior realizes that the bended knee is far more effective than the clenched fist in warding off the attacks of evil. So, says Paul, they
(Eph 6:18) pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests ... (they are) alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
B "Pray for one another." A number of prayer warriors are named in the Old Testament – all of them practiced the duty and the privilege of outward or intercessory prayer. Think of Abraham and his prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah. Again and again he approached God about this city. Remember how he asked God not to sweep away the city: first for the sake of 50, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and then 10 righteous people? Abraham knew and loved the people in Sodom and Gomorrah. He was concerned about them. He wanted God to spare them and give them another chance to repent.
Moses is another prime Old Testament example of a prayer warrior. Again and again he prayed on behalf of the people of Israel that God would restrain His wrath against them. Think of how Moses prayed for the people when they made the golden calf that they worshiped (Ex 32). Think of how Moses prayed for the people when they grumbled that they had no fresh meat (Num 11). Think of how Moses prayed when Aaron and Miriam opposed his leadership (Num 12). Think of how Moses prayed when the spies came with their bad report and the people refused to enter into Canaan (Num 14). Think too of how Moses prayed during the battle with the Amalekites. As long as Moses held up his hands in prayer the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning (Ex 17).
Think of Elijah. He prayed and there was no dew and no rain for 3½ years. He prayed again and the dew came and the rain fell. He prayed and the son of the widow at Zarephath was raised from the dead. He was a prayer warrior. He prayed and fire fell from heaven and consumed an offering and altar drenched in water.
C "Pray for one another." The New Testament also names outstanding prayer warriors. I think of the New Testament Church. Luke describes her as a praying church. They devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). When persecuted they cried to God in prayer (Acts 4:24; 12:5). They prayed so hard that the place where they were meeting was shaken (Acts 4:31). They too were prayer warriors.
Think of Cornelius. He was the first Gentile convert to the Gospel. He was a man of prayer. He prayed to God regularly. God heard those prayers. His prayers came up to God, writes Luke, as a memorial offering (Acts 10:2,4,30,31). He was a prayer warrior.
Think of Paul. He often began his letters to various churches by assuring them of his prayers:
(Eph 1:15-18) For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (16) I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (17) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (18) I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you ...
(Phil 1:3-4) I thank my God every time I remember you. (4) In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
(Col 1:9) For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
It is equally noteworthy that the Paul who prayed so much for others did not hesitate in asking others to pray for him:
(Col 4:2-3) Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (3) And pray for us, too ...
(Rom 15:30) I urge you, brothers ... to join in my struggle by praying to God for me.
(2 Thess 3:1-2) Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. (2) And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.
D "Pray for one another." I can also mention Peter, Stephen, and others as examples of prayer warriors. But the best example of all is the Lord Jesus Himself. Spend some time reading John 17. The entire chapter is a prayer of Jesus. He prays for Himself because in a few hours He will be betrayed, suffer, and die. He prays for the disciples as He soon will be leaving them. He prays for all believers.
John 17 may be the only prayer of Jesus that we have, but the Gospels let us know there was nothing unusual about this prayer. We are told, for instance, that Jesus made a habit of getting up early in the morning and going to a solitary place to pray (Mk 1:35). Luke tells us that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Lk 5:16). Sometimes He spent an entire night praying to God (Lk 6:12). Whenever He was troubled Jesus spent time in prayer: He did this after feeding the crowds (Mk 6:45); He did this after predicting His suffering, death, and resurrection (Lk 9:28); He did this in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:35). We all know about the Mount of transfiguration where the appearance of His face changed and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning and how Moses and Elijah appeared and began to talk to Him; do you also know why Jesus was on the mountain in the first place – He was there to pray (Lk 9:28). And did you know that one day Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer to His disciples because they had seen Him in prayer and asked Him to teach them (Lk 11:1)?
E "Pray for one another." There are many modern day examples of prayer warriors too. I know we have prayer warriors in our congregation – men and women who pray continually for others and for me too.
Korean Christians are known for prayer. One of their favorite techniques is a "relay prayer." Every member of the church is assigned a specific time for prayer in their church building and none can stop until their replacement is there. This way the whole church prays continuously for a number of weeks or months or even years for a specific purpose.
Some powerful businessmen in our country are known as prayer warriors too.
Title: Prayer Every Morning
The chairman of the board of an East Coast company demanded to see the president. "I'm sorry," replied the secretary. "He said he must not be disturbed. He has a special appointment." Furious, the chairman banged open the door. There in the office was the president of the corporation on his knees in prayer. The chairman quickly and quietly closed the door and whispered to the secretary, "Is that usual?" "Yes, sir, every morning," she answered.
III Physical and Spiritual Needs
A "Pray for one another." When we pray for others – as brothers and sisters in Christ – what should we pray for? There is no limit – we can pray for health and safety, for bodily provisions, for strength, for wisdom. We are to pray for whatever physical needs people may have at the moment.
B "Pray for one another." We are also to pray for spiritual needs: for increase in holiness, for power to live the Christian life, for insight into God's will. Usually people ask for prayer and people offer prayer only when it comes to physical needs. If we pray for spiritual needs at all, it is usually for the conversion of non-Christians. When we pray for one another we should not forget the importance of constant prayer for spiritual maturity.
"Pray for one another." Do you know what happens when we do this within the fellowship of believers? Do you know what happens when we – as brothers and sisters in Christ – serve one another in this way?
First, our prayers sustain and support and help our brother and sister in Christ.
Second, prayer establishes a bond between us and those we pray for. It has been said that the most direct link with another person is through prayer to Christ. Furthermore, I cannot condemn or hate or remain angry with a brother or sister I am praying for. Prayer, in other words, both expresses and strengthens the bond of fellowship between believers.
Third, prayer brings results. James points us to Elijah – a man whose prayers were powerful and effective.
Title: Prayer Works
I read this past week of a church in our country that had a 24-hour prayer vigil group. A couple of years ago the group decided to pray for the police force of their small city. Within two months, two of the policemen – without any prompting from the church – began to attend the church and were baptized. After six months, the crime rate in the city had dropped from an average of twelve violent crimes in a six-month period to only two such crimes.
"Pray for one another." Praying for one another is not easy. It takes time – time to consider others' needs, time to express them to God, time to persist in prayer. And prayer requires our energy.
"Pray for one another." Let me encourage you – as brothers and sisters in Christ – to do this.
Let me conclude with some suggestions on how to pray for one another:
-become a member of the church's prayer chain
-join or start a prayer group
-become a prayer partner for someone involved in ministry (for instance, a youth leader, a church school teacher, an elder, a deacon, a coffee break leader, an organist, one of the pastors)
-pray for two different families from the church directory every single day
-go through the back of the bulletin and pray for all the ministries of our congregation
-pray your way through the church bulletin
-look at the church's calendar every day and pray for the person or couple celebrating a birthday or anniversary
"Pray for one another."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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